Student Blogs/ Hannah in Vienna
Preparation and Departure
I’m currently sitting in my apartment in the second district of Vienna, Austria trying to recollect what has happened since I left home six days ago. Leading up to departing for my exchange, I was nothing shy of a mess. I was nervous, anxious, terrified but also excited.
I was working full time up until the day before I left, so I really didn’t have a lot of time to fully grasp what I was doing and how to prepare for it properly. I packed everything I thought I needed, the most important being:
- a plug adapter (I honestly almost forgot to bring this but it is so important to have!)
- a rain jacket (which I needed on my two day Icelandic stopover)
- travel sizes of all toiletries
I’m not sure if it was because I was working full time or I just hadn’t thought about it that much, but the emotional aspect of leaving my home country for a year hit me on the last day. I moved from Calgary to Ottawa to attend Carleton so I had left home for an extended period of time before but it definitely wasn’t the same as moving across the world. I was incredibly emotional on my last day, not to mention the Austrian Embassy phoned me that day to tell me there was a problem with my Residence Permit Application. (If you want more information on that application process so you don’t go through the nightmare I did, stay tuned as I will probably write a blog on that topic!) Anyways, I just let the emotions all come at once and there was part of me that wanted to cancel my whole exchange just because it would have been easier. The key word here is ‘easier’ not better. I knew that it might easier to stay at home or at Carleton but I would live with the regret of not embarking on this incredible experience.
I decided when booking my flight that I was going to fly through Iceland as it was cheaper and then I thought, while I’m there I might as well stay for a bit. I ended up staying for two nights and only staying in Reykjavik, but it was really cool! I spent a lot of time getting lost in the city by myself. Travelling by yourself is one of the most endearing things you can do. I have never felt so independent in my life, even though I would have deemed myself independent before the trip. There’s just something about being alone in a foreign place and being okay with it, that allows you to enjoy the experience with yourself.
I was extremely nervous when entering the country due to my not yet approved Residence Permit, as Iceland along with Austria reside in the Schengen Area. However, my entry/exit was seamless. I left through Brussels (a major airport I would not recommend transferring through solely because of the size of the airport) and entered Austria without a hitch.
I had previously arranged a service to pick me up from the airport with my keys to my apartment and I would highly recommend this! This came along with my “Meldezettel” signed by my landlord which is required to bring to a Municipal Office within three days of your arrival in the city to register with them. I moved into my apartment the next morning (as my lease didn’t begin until the next day), dropped off my suitcases and went to the university campus for a German placement test for my Intensive German course.
I learned a few things from my German Placement Test:
- Practice your German before going!!!
- Arrive at least a day before your placement test so you are not exhausted.
- Ask for help!
Unfortunately, I didn’t practice my German before leaving and ended not performing to my level during the oral exam. After writing the written exam, the examiner asked me to write the upper level exam but was not convinced to put me in the right level. Each placement test takes 30 minutes, so after the first one I was already exhausted. However, I wasn’t too concerned with being placed at a lower level as long as I was able to practice speaking my German because that’s really what I came here to do.
Normally, I would be too shy to ask for help from strangers. I thought while I was closer to downtown I could go to the Municipal Office but I didn’t know where any of them were. There were student volunteers with the Language Centre and I asked if they would be able to help me find out which one was closest. They were so nice; they drew out a route on a map for me to follow, which I did and had no trouble at the city office!
After being here for about three days, I cannot stop saying how beautiful the people and the city are. All of the buildings look like something out of a romance novel and every street is a new photo-op. Europeans also dress incredibly well and always look fashionable. I have yet to see anyone wearing a pair of leggings or a sweatshirt. Hopefully I have enough in my budget for some new clothes!
I was also extremely anxious about making sure I made friends and after the first day I wasn’t reassured. I didn’t know anyone in my building or anyone at the school. I had met people briefly, but nothing that I thought would stick. Little did I know, a day later (today), I went to my orientation with an Australian girl I had met yesterday, met more people at the orientation, went to the Film Festival with them and signed up for a walking tour with a girl from Belgium I had met yesterday. Life is good! Stayed tuned. Tschüss!